According to a report from the New York Times, members of the National Security Council under Donald Trump no longer uses their extensive knowledge of international relations, politics, and history to formulate foreign policy security proposals for the president’s review — and are instead using the president’s tweets to make policy based upon his desires and social media proclamations.
The report begins with noting that council members are often handed printouts of the president’s tweets when they convene and are expected to use his words as their guide to formulate proposals that will likely find favor with the president.
“When President Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, convenes meetings with top National Security Council officials at the White House, he sometimes opens by distributing printouts of Mr. Trump’s latest tweets on the subject at hand,” the report begins. “The gesture amounts to an implicit challenge for those present. Their job is to find ways of justifying, enacting or explaining Mr. Trump’s policy, not to advise the president on what it should be.”
As the report points out, this is a reversal of how the national security apparatus is supposed to work where members of the council previously gave advice to the president on national security decisions based upon department analysis.
According to the report, the biggest change has come under O’Brien who many feel hangs onto his job — unlike former department heads John Bolton and the retired Lt. Gen H.R. McMaster — by catering to the president’s whims regardless of facts on the ground.
“In the years the since the National Security Council was started by President Harry S. Truman in 1947, its influence has fluctuated, depending on the president, the national security adviser and the relative power of the cabinet members and agency chiefs the national security adviser must coordinate,” the Times notes before adding that O’Brien has been shrinking the number of analysts instead of growing the department.
“By the end of this month, Mr. O’Brien will have completed what he calls a streamlining of the National Security Council, chopping the council’s staff from 174 policy positions in October to fewer than 115. The reductions have focused on the dozens of career officials who are detailed to the council from other federal departments and agencies, including the C.I.A., the Pentagon and the State Department,” the report states.
This allows the group to work with less interference from career officials who are considered suspect by Trump loyalists.
According to former Pentagon official John Gans, author of a book on the National Security Council, the changes g brought about by O’Brien could have a devastating effect on national security.
“Mr. O’Brien’s willingness to trim the National Security Council, Mr. Gans said, ‘says something about Trump’s Washington,'” the Times reports with Gans adding, “The national security adviser should have the strongest staff possible. But it seems like Robert O’Brien is focused more on that audience of one — and making sure that Donald Trump is happy.”
You can read more here.